Thursday, September 13, 2007

Trading Futures: The Wise Are Wary

No doubt youve seen the late night commercials extolling the virtues of trading commodity futures. People have made millions with small investments almost overnight. Read the fine print: Results are not typical. Trading commodity futures can result in enormous profits but it is a tricky business. Only those with money they can afford to lose should consider dallying in this market. That said, trading futures is a fascinating and high profit endeavor which those with a high risk tolerance may find to their liking.

The term futures actually refers to a futures contract. Buying a future means entering into a contract to buy or sell a commodity for a specific price at a specified time in the future.

Futures emanated from the 1800s when farmers began selling their crops before they had actually been brought to market. A future was essentially just an agreement between the farmer and the buyer as to the price that would be paid when the crop came in. Obviously, depending upon weather conditions while the crop was in the field the value of the crop might go up or down. If a hail storm destroyed most of a certain crop then the value of the future might go up because there would be less of the commodity to go around. On the other hand, a bumper crop might cause the value of the future to fall. Over time people who owned these agreements or contracts began to sell them prior to the harvesting of the crop. Thus, a market in futures was born.

The modern futures market has become much more complex and deals not just in crops but in all sorts of sorts of precious metals as well as crude oil, gasoline and even electricity. Futures are sold throughout the day on a variety of exchanges including the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). Trading commodity futures would be complicated even if only actual farmers and those interested in using their crops were involved. Todays commodity markets, however, encompass an enormous variety of traders.

Many large institutions trade options and speculators are also rampant. Speculators are in the commodities market only to make money and often buy and hold positions for just hours or even minutes. They trade on scraps of information and hints gleaned from the news. Sometimes they make trades on the basis of volume alone. Both institutions and speculators also hedge options which simply means they try to protect their positions by hedging their bets. Hedging in the simplest terms refers to the practice of taking a futures position that is in opposition to a position taken in the stock market. By doing this a person is covering himself/herself no matter which way the market moves. In truth, hedging can result in enormous losses. Hedging is only once of many devices which are used in trading commodity futures. So called futures derivatives can become so complicated that not even traders with years of experience are entirely sure what is being sold.

If you are considering trading commodity futures it is imperative that you read and study extensively before making any investment. After a period of study you should investigate the commodity options brokerage houses. Commodities cannot be traded on the exchanges directly by individuals. They have to be traded through people and firms who are registered with the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. Carefully read through the disclosure information which is provided by the brokerages you are considering.

Once you have decided to trade commodity futures, think again. Part of the reason futures trading can be so profitable is because trading is done with a leverage account. Leverage means you are only putting up a portion of the money and borrowing the rest on margin. If the futures go up your account pays the leverage costs out of the profits. If the futures you have bought go down you will have to pay the difference out of your own pocket. When futures fall precipitously you may be called upon to pay the money you owe immediately sometimes within an hour. It bears repeating that trading commodity futures is only for those who have capital they can afford to risk and lose.

Bear the following in mind.

Do not deal with anyone who will not provide disclosure documents. Do not allow anyone to pressure you or intimidate you into opening account. Do not use money you cannot afford to use to trade commodity futures. Do not borrow money to trade commodity futures. Do not be lured into opening an account by promises of quick, easy profits.

Trading commodity futures can be lucrative and exciting. Conversely, it can cause the loss of every penny invested and liability for any money borrowed on margin. Therefore, for anyone considering trading commodity futures the motto is truly, Buyer beware.

Christopher M. Luck has an extensive background in working exclusively with the commodity trading and is now offering his free trading tips to the public. If you are at all interested in Christopher's trading advice, tips, or secrets, you can visit his commodity blog

The Effect of Human Emotion on Investment Decisions and the Overall Economy

Economics is simply "the study of life" and the choices we make. Human emotion is perhaps the strongest force in the economic and financial environment. It gets its appropriate level of respect in the real world--and a very short shrift in the land of academia. Human emotion...the need to stay up with the Joneses...the drive to get a great deal...the drive to make a killing on an investment or a property...all can contribute to positive or negative developments in the economy.

Fear & Greed...Stocks

Emotion at times can be the primary driver of stock prices, whether up or down. The powerful emotion of fear can motivate holders of stocks or other financial assets to sell, at times regardless of the price received. The equally powerful emotion of greed can motivate investors to buy various assets, even when the inner voice might suggest the price is too high. Only later, in many cases, can investors recognize that they were "caught in the moment" and let emotion drive their actions.

Greed was clearly center stage during the second half of the 1990s and the first quarter of 2000, especially in regard to Internet stocks and the NASDAQ. Greed drove many Internet-based companies to sky-high stock market valuations, even as many of these companies lacked profitability or a reasonable chance to become profitable anytime soon. The overall NASDAQ was pushed to a high of 5049, much higher than many investors and market players deemed logical or possible.

At such unsustainable levels, fear soon became the more dominant emotion. The fear of millions of investors eventually pushed the NASDAQ down to 1113, a decline of nearly 80%. Hundreds of thousands of investors saw major losses in their retirement portfolios, requiring them to either stay in the workforce longer or return to gainful employment in order to rebuild damaged portfolios.

Fear & Greed...Real Estate

A similar greed-based rise was also found in the nation's real estate market in recent years. Tens of thousands of investors pulled their funds from the stock market and sought a new avenue to riches--real estate was just the ticket.

The decline of both short-term and long-term interest rates during 2001-2003 provided thousands of homebuyers with the opportunity to purchase their first homes. Tens of thousands of existing homeowners took advantage of the lowest home financing rates in 40 years to "trade up" to more valuable properties.

The Flippers

In addition, investors and speculators by the thousands began to push real estate values higher. Many of these investors, commonly known as "flippers," took advantage of extremely low short- and long-term financing rates to purchase additional properties.

It was not uncommon in hot real estate markets on the East Coast, the West Coast, and in the nation's Southwest for flippers to appear at announcements of new single-family and condominium developments, with the intent of buying multiple properties. Many of these flippers were successful in immediately bumping prices higher, and were able to pocket significant profits with limited risk.

Other flippers came belatedly to the game in late 2005 and 2006, and were ultimately stuck with multiple properties to finance, with limited potential buyers. Many of these flippers, as well as thousands of more legitimate homeowners, faced the bleak task of trying to unload properties at a time when many other investors were engaged in the same process. Their financing plight was made worse by the impact of 17 monetary tightening moves by the Federal Reserve through June 2006.

The problems of sub-prime lenders are serious in today's real estate market and are discussed ad nauseum in the media. The additional issue of flippers looking to liquidate investment properties adds to current real estate woes in many formerly high-flying markets.

Economic futurist Jeff Thredgold is President of Thredgold Economic Associates, a professional speaking and economic consulting company.

Since 1976, Jeff's weekly economic and financial newsletter, Tea Leaf, has been helping people make sense of the tangled maze of the U.S. and global economy and financial markets in a light, approachable style. Sign up to receive the free Tea Leaf email newsletter.

Jeff is the author of econAmerica: Why the American Economy is Alive and Well...and What That Means to Your Wallet (Wiley, 2007), and On the One Hand...The Economist's Joke Book.

His career includes 23 years with $96 billion banking giant KeyCorp, where he served as Senior VP and Chief Economist. He now serves as economic consultant to $50 billion Zions Bancorporation, which has banks in 10 states.

Fixed Indexed Annuity: Bank CD Alternative

A fixed indexed annuity (FIA) is the product of choice for top selling annuity agents who are tired of seeing their clients lose money in low interest rate CDs. A fixed indexed annuity is a hybrid fixed product that is fast becoming the new safe home for billions of former CD, stock market and mutual fund dollars. And with good reason.


A FIA provides a safety net of usually 1-3% interest compounded annually. But this is just the minimum guarantee through the contract term. The upside earning potential is much higher.

As the name implies, the fixed indexed annuity is tied to an equity index such as the Standard & Poors 500. The S&P 500 is the benchmark for U.S. equity markets, representing the general health of the overall stock market. As the market goes up your client's earnings go up because they participate in a percentage of the increase. But (and this very important) when the stock market comes back down again as it always does, your clients dont lose any money.


This bears repeating. When the stock market goes up, earnings go up with it subject to a cap. But when the market comes back down again as it always does, the policy does not lose any money. Earnings are locked in at each annual anniversary index point. FIA owners earn 2 or 3 times the guaranteed interest rate when the stock market goes up, and when the stock market comes back down again they get to keep all profits. Upside earnings without the downside risk. How cool is that?


Whats more, your client's earnings grow tax deferred as long as they stay in the annuity. This means they earn even more money on the portion they dont have to send Uncle Sam. Unlike a CD, there is no Form 1099 to add to income tax returns each year. Why pay taxes on income you dont spend? Seniors citizens are especially fond of Fixed Indexed Annuities since deferred interest is not counted as provisional income and can reduce or eliminate taxation of Social Security benefits. FIAs are also becoming the favorite funding vehicle in small business retirement plans like the 401(k) and SEP-IRA.


Whether you sell to retirees or future retirees, you owe it to yourself to learn why millions of people are moving billions (actually, trillions) of dollars into fixed indexed annuities. Theyre the sensible alternative that can make you very large commissions. Gary Le Mon is a wholesale distributor of fixed indexed annuities for Allianz, American Equity, Sun Life Financial, and ING. Author and developer of the Safe Money Seminar, a financial planning seminar for Seniors, Gary serves as guest speaker on behalf of agents and agencies nationwide. He is coach, mentor and motivator to over 700 general agents in his insurance marketing organization, InsuranStar Marketing. See also

How Does Business Achieve High Performance?

Want a High Performance Organization?

For a while now we have been hearing a great deal about High Performance Organizations and High Performance Management and how achieving high performance will improve your business. In fact in todays technologically advanced, global economy high performance is not an alternative it is a requirement for all businesses that want to prosper in the years to come. The terminology of high performance sounds pretty straightforward; if performance is at a peak then the business processes should follow suit and so then should productivity, profits, and competitiveness. Lets investigate how it works.

How does business achieve high performance?

The standard methodology for achieving high performance within the workplace has been to breakaway from the traditional and highly structured model of business organization to one that is more organic and flexible. Within these organic systems managers are encouraged to create teams of employees who work together toward a common business goal. The teams are empowered to make decisions and solve problems, they monitor and improve their quality, and each individual employee is seen as a contributing business partner.

Utopia at last, people have meaningful work, employees are respected and trusted, creativity and innovation flourish, quality improves, and productivity reaches levels unheard of only months before. Yeah right!

So, what really happens? Why does the theory of High Performance so often get derailed when it is based on sound principles of human behavior and motivation?

The problem is not with the theory, it is in the execution!!!. Our culture is so indentured to the traditional model of organization that, despite our best efforts, it is almost impossible to remove the vestiges of managerial control, division of labor, and the reams and reams of policies and procedures that trap employees into doing things one way, and one way only. When well meaning executives, managers, and consultants get a hold of the notion of High Performance Management they often rush to create teams, write new job descriptions, set up feedback systems, and create elaborate reward and recognition programs all in an effort to convince their employees that they are valued and respected and that their contributions are meaningful and appreciated and will be rewarded.

Again, all sound notions but the problem is that these programs address only surface issues and they do not even begin to attack the traditional notions and customs that continue to prevail. Think of organizational dynamics like an iceberg where only 10% of the issues are visible on the surface and the bulk remains hidden and potentially menacing underneath. In truly High Performance workplaces managers do not have to convince employees that they are valued, the employees inherently know they are valued simply by the way the work is organized and performed.

So whats wrong with this picture????

The organization that is trying to be High Performance is really no more than a traditional organization in disguise. It has adopted new terminology and is trying out some new human resource management techniques but the organization has NOT CHANGED the way that it approaches the system of working. Work is still narrowly defined and departmentalized and management is still controlling and directing the flow. On the surface it may sound like things have changed but the employees know they are doing exactly what they did before; except now, they are part of a team doing it.

Make a real transition using Human Capital Management (HCM)

The only way to move toward true High Performance is to adopt a system of Human Capital Management that helps measure and execute real changes in the way that human capital (resources) is managed. It starts with the realization and acknowledgement that your human, or intangible capital is as important as your tangible capital and that like the tangible items, human capital needs to measured and accounted for on a consistent basis. Just as you want to keep your equipment in top shape so should you keep your people in top shape ready and capable of performing the job they were hired to perform. Just as you seek investment opportunities for your financial capital to grow, so you need to invest in your human capital and provide them with opportunities to grow.

By attending and understanding the needs of your employees you allow them to perform to their capacity. This maximum capacity yields high productivity and that is when you truly have a High Performance organization.

High Performance is as critical as it is possible. It is a process that starts with philosophical change and ends with practical solutions that lead to substantial improvements in the way work is accomplished, the way work is perceived, and the amount of work that is achieved. Practicing effective Human Capital Management that encompasses how the entire organization runs and how it evaluates employee success, will create a natural link to High Performance Management that will see businesses emerge as healthy, prosperous, and highly competitive.

Eva Jenkins is a visionary entrepreneur whose rich history of accomplishments in business and finance serve as both the foundation of and the fuel for her current success with VIP Staffing and VIP Innovations. Jenkins a lightening rod for innovative thought and a divining rod for uncovering hidden potential in businesses. Armed with a keen understanding of the dynamics of human capital aqcquisitions and an astute sense of the best way to leverage that capital, she uses her unique high-performance principles to help companies re-shape their fundamental business beliefs and practices. Her goal is to prepare her clients so that they may respond to, and more importantly anticipate, the precedent-setting HR challenges in today's evolving international global economy.

If You are Serious About Building Wealth, Follow the Behavior of the Ultra-Rich, Not the Rich

The Myths of the Wealthy Spread by the Mass Media

Recently, there was an article on CNNMoney that spoke about the secrets of the elite rich in the United States. In turn, several articles were written about this article, including one that stated that the richest of Americans built their wealth with diversification, wealth preservation and strategic growth. That is a ridiculous statement in itself because two of those strategies, diversification and preservation dont help build wealth. Perhaps the richest of Americans use these two strategies to maintain an even keel AFTER they have accumulated great wealth, but certainly they didnt use them during the accumulation phase. According to this article, a survey of Northern Trust uncovered that the richest Americans do not heavily rely on high-risk investment vehicles like hedge funds to make money, but are moderate risk takers who put more than half of their asset allocation into U.S. stocks and cash.

Again, just as former hedge fund manager and multi-millionaire Jim Cramer said that he used certain financial journalists, including ones employed by the Wall Street Journal, as pawns to spread misinformation far and wide to benefit himself, again this is an example of investment institutions using the media as pawns to spread their myths to keep the masses of retail investors ignorant. The CNNMoney article made it appear that the richest of Americans built their wealth by being conservative and slowly growing their money over time. Thats an oxymoron right there. To state that the rich became rich by slowly growing their money over time. Well, if they are slowly growing their money and becoming even richer, then this implies that they were rich to begin with. So how did they accumulate wealth? Surely not by slowly growing their money.

Sure, some of the richest Americans do not heavily rely on high-risk investments because they ARE ALREADY EXTREMELY RICH. The majority of ultra-rich do NOT build their fortunes by speculating on high-risk investments as is commonly believed. Often they build fortunes utilizing volatile assets and investments but that does not mean they were engaging in risky behavior. Many times, investing in a hedge fund can be much riskier than investing in some of the assets that your investment firm will tell you is risky. But investment firms will gladly place a portion of your money in hedge funds because the fees they earn from hedge funds are so high even as they advise you not to put your money in a much less risky investment with much greater earning potential. And this is the secret that investment firms never tell you. Volatile assets that often can be used to build great wealth are NOT RISKY if they are purchased at entry points that are extremely favorable and provide a low-risk point of entry. 99% of investors dont understand what high-risk investments truly are because they have been misinformed by their advisors and their firms for the past half of a century. Purchasing volatile assets at low risk-high reward entry points greatly mitigates and neutralizes the great majority of risk of volatile assets. If you dont understand this concept then you need to.

Replace Investment Firms Dumb Asset Gathering Sales Strategies with Intelligent Asset Growing Strategies

Many millionaires that are wealthy but that could be extremely wealthy fail to build enormous wealth because investment and financial institutions mislead them about certain asset classes and describe them as complex and risky and are able to convince their clients of this belief because they never properly explain risk-reward scenarios to their clients. However, those investors that are extremely wealthy are the rare breed that understand this concept. If investors had a choice between allocating $1,000,000 in a historically volatile Investment A that has a 78% chance of returning a 250% gain versus an Investment B that has a 95% chance of earning 9%, most investors would choose Investment A. However, because Investment A may exhibit 50% more volatility than Investment B, the great majority of advisors would steer their client away from the former investment into the latter one. In fact, this is exactly what even prestigious firms that cater to ultra high net-worth clients do because they allow misinformed, uneducated investors dictate the rules of engagement to them, and they would much rather appease such powerful, important people with slow,minimal gains rather than empower and enlighten them and boost their returns like never before. They would choose to steer them away because they present the investment opportunities incorrectly, merely telling their client that while they could earn 350% from Investment A there was also a very realistic probability that they could lose $300,000, and that shooting for the slow but steady $90,000 a year is much better for them.

If you are thinking to yourself, That makes absolutely no sense? Why would firms not earn 20% a year for their clients if they could instead of 8% a year? The answer is because the overwhelming majority of investment firms, no matter how prestigious their brand, are merely highly glorified sales machines. They fail to convince clients to invest in phenomenal investment opportunities that sometimes arise like Investment A because in order for Investment A to be a moderate risk, very high reward investment, it must be entered at a low risk entry point so that the probability of being down $300,000 at any give time would be reduced from perhaps 50% to 20%. And that even if their timing is not optimal, then a firm must educate the client that as long as they dont panic when they are down, the odds are still extremely high that they will earn a 250% or better gain. However, the greatest factor that determines why firms will not seek this strategy is time. Engaging in much better strategies such as these for their clients would take massive amounts of time in client education and enough time in research that the amount of assets gathered would take a serious hit.

So because it is not in a firms interest to engage in activities that maximize portfolio returns (unless it is their own institutional portfolio), instead, we have Chief Investment Officers at top investment firms making statements like, "Generally they [the richest of Americans] want to see prudently managed growth without a lot of surprises, which is why we emphasize diversification." Again, this is a sales & marketing campaign statement, not an aboveboard statement about how to make money for clients. If clients are uncomfortable with strategies that would actually built great wealth for them instead of producing mediocre or subpar returns, their discomfort only originates from the fact that the largest investment firms have been deceiving their clients, just as Jim Cramer had deceived the thundering sheep herd for years, about the realities of building wealth. This discomfort originates solely from the fact that he or she has been kept in the dark for so long.

Despite What Investment Firms Tell You, Myopia and a Concentration in U.S. Stock Markets Will NOT Optimize Your Portfolio Returns

Thus, we have a misinformation-driven cauldron of bad investment decisions that exist today. In 2007, youll still find Chief Investment Officers of very well known firms making ridiculous statement that investors need to invest at least 50% of their stock portfolio in U.S. stocks if they wish to grow their portfolios exponentially. How are they going to grow their portfolios exponentially with more than half of their stocks in a stock market (the U.S.) that has NEVER been the best performing market in the past 25 years (even among developed stock markets)? How will they grow their portfolios exponentially by buying stocks in market that trades in what is quite possibly the worst currency on earth among developed markets (the U.S. dollar)? Yes I know that when the U.S. dollar shows a brief spike in strength as is likely to happen soon (Im writing this article in April, 2007), that many people will question what I am saying, but this is only again because they are victims to the mass deception mind-games of the investment industry. I suppose if planning to earn better than subpar returns in your stock portfolio is engaging in risky behavior as Chief Investment Officers of various firms claim, then yes, I whole-heartedly endorse engaging in risky behavior.

And because so many people, yes even those considered quite wealthy, fall victim to the preaching of investment industry demagogues, there is a second mistake that many rich investors will soon make. Another survey of wealthy U.S. investors uncovered that a large percentage of investors with investment assets of over a million do not employ any type of investment advisor but plan to do so soon giving the increasingly gloomy nature of the U.S. stock markets. To that, this is what I have to say. Making money in difficult markets is ten times more difficult than making money in bull markets. If investors believe that it will be increasingly more difficult to make money in U.S. stock markets, but yet top investment firms in the U.S. continue to preach that more than half of your portfolio should be in U.S. stocks (mostly to cover their respective firms inadequate coverage of emerging markets), how is the hiring one of these men possibly going to improve these investors future performance outlook?

But there is an EXTREMELY important distinction to be made here. What Ive written above applies to the behavior and mindset of some of the richest people in America, but not THE very richest people in America. The very richest people in America, those you might categorize as the worlds ultra-rich, possess a very different mindset and behavior set than those that are just rich. The ultra-rich have positioned their portfolios extremely differently from how the rich people discussed above have positioned their portfolios. The reason why articles regarding their behavior and investment decisions are virtually non-existent is because they dont grant interviews and they dont want people to know what they are doing. But Ive investigated what they are doing, and trust me, it is nothing remotely similar to the behavior of wealthy investors described by Northern Trust and other investment firms.

If you would like to find out why the ultra-rich always manage their own money or are able to find the 1 in a million consultant truly capable of providing them the returns they desire, consult our resource of 101 Reasons Why Managing Your Own Money is the Only Way to Build Wealth. Even if the ultra-wealthy have someone managing their money for them, the only way they were capable of finding this 1 in a million financial consultant was due to the fact that if they had to, they could manage their own money successfully as well. Only by first fully understanding the most successful investment strategies themselves were they able to identify an advisor capable of employing similar strategies. However, a great majority of ultra-wealthy continue to handle and make their own investment decisions. And that is precisely why they are among the elite.

This article may be freely reprinted on another website as long as it is not modified, changed, or altered in any way and as long as the below author byline is included along with the active hyperlink exactly as is.

J.S. Kim is the Managing Director of SmartKnowledgeU. He has over thirteen years of experience in finance and financial services, and has earned a BA in Neurobiology from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master in Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MBA with a concentration in finance from the McCombs Business School, University of Texas at Austin. He is the inventor of the revolutionary MoneyPing investment strategies, a novel approach to learn how to build wealth, not just dreams.

To learn more about how to achieve financial freedom, and investment ideas to dramatically decrease risk and intelligently increase the probabilities of 25% or higher annual returns, click the following link Advanced Wealth Planning Techniques and Achieve Financial Freedom Ideas

Currency Trading For Beginners (Forex)

Forex market is expanding to new traders due to the advancements in communication technologies. Beginners can now learn 'the art and science' of Forex currency trading with a simple mouse click and can increase their income as well. What is needed is to follow certain basic rules; otherwise it may involve a potential risk of loss.

Beginners in Forex trading must start with a systematic study of the working principles. You must remember that forex trading is different from a stock market in many ways. The currency deals are always done in pairs like the USD/Euro or the USD/GBP. The study includes identifying the direction and movement of the currency before buying or selling so that you can make profit while the price going down as well as up. So if the currency behaves as per the prediction, you gain. The trick, therefore, lies in analyzing trends and patterns.

Learning forex currency trading for beginners is easy: You need an Internet connected PC and a dedicated schedule for learning. The more time and effort you put into it, easier it becomes for you to learn. As a beginner in learning forex trading, you do not even need to be familiar with the individual currency. But with your power of analyzing patterns, keen power of observation in studying trends and making them work in your favor, you can master the trade within a short spell!

A beginner interested in forex currency trading can perform almost every transaction online. To succeed at currency trading at the beginning, you need discipline, dedication and patience. The most appealing aspect of the forex trading is the financial freedom you can enjoy with very minimal effort.

As a beginner in forex currency trading, you should realize that it is not an income but an investment. Therefore, knowing the right time to invest is a key to success. Try to learn the trading strategies with your own research from various sources -- electronic and conventional. It is also advisable to start investing with little amounts till the time you achieve the required level of confidence. You as a beginner must master the ins and outs of a risk management strategy.

The beginners in forex currency trading can make use of several online tools, which can make their trading profitable. Some forex trading software can help you analyze market conditions; and guide you in making the decisions about the right time for investment. Identifying an effective trading system, therefore, is another major issue. You must be careful to check that the online brokerage company selling you the right trading system, which is backed by authentic technical as well as fundamental analysis and not on the basis of market rumors.

For more information trading currencies online please visit Forex Currency Trading for Beginners